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Miss Pacific Islands Calls for Unity

Miss Pacific Islands, Leoshina Kariha says the recent experience in Tonga has presented an opportunity to use the pageant platform to break stereotypes and boundaries among people of the Pacific.

Kariha has been in the Tongan capital of Nuku'alofa since last Wednesday to attend the Heilala Festival and crowning of Miss Heilala.

It is reported that as the 19 year old Kariha was concluding her speech during the crowning night on Friday, someone yelled out "YOU'RE BLACK AND UGLY, DISGUSTING" from the VIP stand which was met by booing from the crowd.

In an issued statement Kariha said there has been much incorrect and non-factual information being spread through social media and news channels surrounding the incident.

“At the outset, we want to state that there was NO COMMENT made by the Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga who is also Minister for Tourism in Tonga,” said Kariha.

“Yes, a comment by one individual in the VIP area (which refers to the whole floor area of the stadium in Tonga, as opposed to the side bleacher seating) was made - and that is something that is never nice to hear but has been said by one individual.”

“We can't jump to conclusions over one post on social media. I am more hurt by the statements of our own people throwing hateful comments at each other.”

“Be quick to listen and slow to anger. We can't let the minority dampen our spirit of Pacific Unity and spoil such an empowering platform, as Miss Pacific Islands Pageant, which preserves cultures and showcases the beauty and intelligence of our women.”

She said while many will not agree, but as Pageant organisers, we choose to build and work together united and thus the Miss Pacific Islands has brushed aside calls to ban the Tongan participant from participating in this year’s event.

“We will as a Pageant, not take the route of banning the new Miss Heilala from coming to our Pageant in PNG. As a platform for empowerment, how can we penalise a young woman who is so much an embodiment of the good that can be represented in a nation,” said Kariha.

“I look forward to welcoming my Pacific sister, the newly crowned Miss Heilala/ Tonga to my home shores of PNG. We must use this experience as a stepping stone to now put aside our differences and begin to work beside one another for the good of our future generations.”

She has since asked people, to put this issue aside, to stop the sharing of non-factual information; to take a stand in a positive way.

Meantime Radio New Zealand reports there are calls for Tonga's Deputy Prime Minister Semisi Sika to resign over his intervention at the Miss Heilala beauty Pageant in Nuku'alofa on Friday.

The report also cited concern raised that Mr Sika failed to intervene when someone from the VIP table reportedly screamed racist abuse at Kariha.  FM100


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